In August, Briana and I released a book called Rituals for Transformation. It’s a three-month process in which you read a short lesson each day about the body, mind, or spirit; meditate on it; write a bit about it; and be open to having your life change. I expected people to have transformative experiences with it, but I’ve still been amazed by all the inspiring stories our readers have shared.
I also expected people to experience some pushing of their buttons, and I haven’t been disappointed. We set up an online discussion group where participants share their challenges, and as much as I enjoy hearing about healing and revelation, I’m just as pleased to hear about the hurdles and to see the ways people support each other. Although it has become clear that not every person is ready for every teaching at any given moment, it’s also clear that those who are the most resistant to a certain lesson are often the most “ripe” for it.
Speaking of resistance, one reader was stuck on this lesson:
Who would I be if I had no resistance?
Today’s lesson lies entirely in what you can learn from asking yourself a single question and being willing to hear the answer. Ask yourself as often as you think of it – especially when you feel uncomfortable, bored, upset, critical, disappointed, impatient, unhappy, tired, blocked, or anything other than peaceful. We encourage you to direct the question not just to your mind, but also your body, your soul, and your Highest Self. There is no additional explanation to offer; let the question go deep within you and receive the guidance that comes.
What his mind came up with was that without resistance he would have no ambition, he would become irresponsible, he would get taken advantage of by others, and he would lose his physical fitness. It was a great response because it highlights just how much our minds are invested in resistance, and therefore, in conflict. But is it really resistance that drives us?
There is a lot of energy in resistance because it engages our survival mechanisms. If we feel we’re involved in a conflict, it gives our mind something to fight with and turns on stress responses which liberate reserves of energy. (Incidentally, these reserves are best saved for legitimate survival situations, and tapping them habitually eventually leads to exhaustion.) It’s exciting, in a way, to have something to resist, so we’re enticed by stories of things that outrage us.
But is this the source of our will to actualize our potential, or does it actually get in the way?
I don’t want to assign you an answer to that question, because it’s important to experience it for yourself and come to your own understanding, but I would like to introduce a concept from the Tantric texts of India as food for thought. I like this philosophical framework because it’s so clear, and, because it’s relatively unknown in the West, people have fewer preconceptions about it.
In this system (Nondual Shaiva Tantra) the Supreme Consciousness (AKA God, Goddess, Universe, Dao, or whatever other term you like) has two main forms: Shiva is the term for the Divine in transcendent form – timeless, formless, ungraspable (note that this use of Shiva differs somewhat from the concept of Shiva as a Hindu deity). And Shakti is the term for the Divine in immanent form, meaning perceivable through the senses and mind. Shiva and Shakti are one interdependent whole, but it’s sometimes useful to be able to discuss them separately.
The term Shakti also means power, and there are five main expressions of this power. For our purposes, I’ll discuss three. Iccha Shakti is the term for creative impulse. Jnana Shakti means the power of knowledge. Kriya Shakti means the power of action. Thus, the Iccha Shakti, the urge for expression, is the basic will to play in this world. Jnana Shakti, the power of knowledge, shapes this urge through any of myriad structures – music, words, dance, art, devotion, etc. And Kriya Shakti, the power of action, makes this expression a reality.
If you have set up your life in such a way that these powers have the freedom to move through you, through your work and deeds, then there’s no need to engage your stress mechanisms for an extra trickle of energy. It’s possible that this power may direct you to do work that involves some degree of conflict. For instance, you may find yourself moved to provide access to clean water for people who don’t have it, and in that capacity, you may discover that you are in opposition to corporations who seek to control water sources. Yet even in such a scenario, it’s worth considering, is it the resistance to such corporations that drives you, or is it something else?
What parallels to this scenario exist in your life? Where have you found yourself seeming to derive power from resistance? Does the resistance make you more – or less – effective at taking purposeful action? Is it actually the fight that moves you, or is it something deeper? If the conflicts disappeared, would you just lie in bed drooling on yourself, or might there be something that still motivates you?
Let me know what you discover.
Dr. Peter Borten